The concept of payback usually entails revenge. For Raiders defensive lineman Dave Tollefson, it is one of gratitude.
The long and winding road that earned Tollefson two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants included a short but crucial stint with the Raiders, where he started the 2007 season on the practice squad.
"The Raiders allowed me to continue my career in the NFL by sending me to Europe and putting me on the practice squad," Tollefson told reporters by conference call Tuesday. "There's a debt there that I feel like I never really got to repay after leaving. It's kind of funny how life works.
"You get an opportunity to come back to someplace like this and really show them that you appreciate the opportunity that they gave you."
Tollefson (6-foot-4, 266 pounds) was a capable fill-in and rotational player who got in a few starts this past season.
He plans to do the same thing for the Raiders, playing inside, outside or joking that he'd even mow the lawn, if asked.
"Being a jack-of-all-trades is what I've been able to hang my hat on," Tollefson said. "They haven't promised me anything, which is what I want. That's not the style of player I am. There's an opportunity to play, whether that's starting or a backup, a rush guy or a guy that can play the edge in the run. It's going to be a little bit of everything, which is what I love to do."
Tollefson, 29, went from Ygnacio Valley High to Los Medanos College to Fresno State, where he battled shoulder injuries and eventually ended up at Northwest Missouri State -- but not before working for a time at Home Depot in 2002 -- the year the Raiders last won the AFC West and went to the Super Bowl.
He excelled at Northwest Missouri State and was drafted in the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers in 2006, where new Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie was a personnel executive. He spent the 2006 season on the Green Bay practice squad.
The Raiders signed Tollefson off the Green Bay practice squad after the 2006 season and allocated him to Frankfurt of the World League. He failed to make the 53-man roster out of camp and was put on the Oakland practice squad, from which the Giants signed him in October 2007.
Tollefson cited his relationship with McKenzie and the confidence he has in the direction of the organization, as well as his roots in the Bay Area as a Raiders fan, as reasons for taking Oakland's offer when he'd also visited Tennessee and Green Bay.
"There's something special about playing for the team that you grew up watching and where you grew up," Tollefson said. "It means a lot to me they believe in me. Guys are excited to play football, talk football and get ready."